A draft of the policy was distributed to shops, banks and health centres on Rarotonga and outer islands on Monday, and copies are also available on the Ministry of Health website.
Policy manager Valentino Wichman says so far 10 comments have come through and they are mostly supportive.
He says he wants to hear ‘anything and everything’ people think about this new policy so he can gauge what the main issues are for the community.
“If the public want something that isn’t mentioned in the policy, through consultation I will be able to make changes to ensure the best policy is put forward to Cabinet.”
Wichman says the consultation period is also a great tool for raising awareness in the community so that the country can work towards better mental health outcomes.
The draft policy was put together and an implementation plan created at a Mental Health Policy Workshop last month and since then changes have been made to make the document more understandable to the general public.
Once the consultation period is over, Wichman will consolidate the comments and combine them with the implementation plan, which he says is the most important part of the policy.
Once the policy, plans and comments have been put together, it will be submitted to Cabinet for endorsement, hopefully by the end of June.
The policy itself is designed to both raise awareness of mental health and to provide better mental health services, Wichman says.
Certain agencies will be tasked with specific activities mostly to demystify mental health issues and eradicate any misconceptions people have.
“The main stigma is the idea that people with mental illnesses aren’t capable of doing anything or that mental health only encompasses extreme illnesses and psychosis, but it includes everything from schizophrenia to depression.”
Wichman says many people don’t understand mental health and are therefore scared of anyone with a mental illness.
“We want to help people understand what the symptoms of mental illnesses are, especially depression which is prevalent but not talked about as much as it should be.”
There are certain areas within health agencies that need to be strengthened and frontline staff will need to be trained in recognising symptoms of mental illness, he says.
“Everyone should be interested in making a comment for the future health outcomes of everyone,” Wichman says.
The deadline for submitting comments is 4pm on June 1.Ministry.